Brewers Grain for Goats

Episode 126
For the Love of Goats

Brewers Grain for Goats featured image

Who wouldn’t love free food for your goats? But before you call your local brewer or distiller and ask if you can pick up their spent grain, listen to this episode with Dr. Robert VanSaun, vet professor and ruminant nutritionist at Pennsylvania State University.

Spent brewers grain and distillers grain are popular feed for cattle, but are less commonly used to feed goats. We’ve used brew grain to feed our pigs and chickens for about ten years, but have shied away from feeding it to our goats because it doesn’t come with a guaranteed nutritional analysis or even an ingredient list.

In this episode, Dr. VanSaun discusses the nutrients we know are in brewer’s and distiller’s grains and what may or may not be in them, including potentially harmful substances such as sulfur and mycotoxins. We talk about what questions you need to ask the brewmaster before picking up grain, as well as other sources of spent grains.

Many thanks to our listener, Doris, who requested this episode.

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Other episodes with Dr. Robert VanSaun

Transcript – Brewers Grain for Goats

Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. If you have joined us before on any of our nutrition podcasts, you’re probably familiar with Dr. Robert VanSaun, vet professor and ruminant nutritionist at Pennsylvania State University. He is joining us again today to talk about a feed that I am getting more and more questions on all the time, and that is brewers grain. I totally understand why this is intriguing to people because about 10 years ago, I was attending a conference and heard someone talk about using brewers grain to feed their pigs.

And at that time, we also had pigs. And so as soon as I got home, I searched for Illinois Brewers Association and sent emails to the three breweries closest to me and asked if we could pick up their spent brew grain. And they said yes. And so we’ve been doing that for 10 years, but we’ve only fed it to pigs and chickens. I’m very nervous about feeding it to my goats. And during this episode, we will get into that. And I also want to differentiate right at the beginning that brewers grain is not the same thing as distillers grain. And so we are going to talk about both today, but we’re going to get started with brewers grain. So welcome to the show again, Dr. VanSaun.

Robert VanSaun 1:39
Well, thanks, Deborah. And it’s been a while. I know I still owe you one other one yet. Trying to balance it out in my schedule.

Deborah Niemann 1:49
No problem. It is always great to have you here. And I know our guests love all your episodes so much. In fact, many thanks to Doris, one of our listeners who asked specifically for this episode. So let’s just start at the beginning. I’m sure some of our listeners don’t really know what brewers grain is. So just talk about what exactly is that?

Robert VanSaun 2:09
All right. So I guess in some ways I’m a little surprised that people are concerned about this because this has been a byproduct, a fairly inexpensive byproduct that we’ve been feeding to ruminant animals for quite some time. When I was in Michigan and when I was in Oregon, we always incorporated brewers grains into the diets of cows. We would do it in sheep too, although with sheep we’re a little worried because of copper issues because beer is brewed predominantly in copper vats.

And so there’s a bit of copper leaching. So it’s probably not best for sheep, but certainly I think it’s a great resource for goats. Now, what is it? Basically what this is, is the byproduct of the grains, whether they be malts and hops and barley, whatever the brewmaster is using to make their specialty beer brews. This is what’s left over after the yeast has fermented the sugars and made alcohol for the beer. And so this is just the solid material that’s left behind. And so it can be distributed in a wet manner, which is extremely wet and hard to manage in some cases, or in some situations they’ll dry it down and you can buy dried brewers grains.

Deborah Niemann 3:49
Okay. Well, what we are getting is free directly from the brewer and it is very wet.

Robert VanSaun 3:55
Yeah. Yeah. Usually the dry matter on this stuff is about 20%. In other words, it’s 80% water.

Deborah Niemann 4:02
Okay. And in fact, that actually brings up another question. I know I have had people say it stinks and they’re worried that like, how would you know if it’s gone bad or something and it’s going to make your animals sick?

Robert VanSaun 4:16
Yeah. So that’s a good point. A lot of times some of these farms, the larger farms, would get truckloads of brewers grains from the large breweries and they attempted to ensile it, you know, put it in like a cement silo and let it ferment again. But because most of the sugars have been fermented out in the making of the beer, it doesn’t ferment very well. And so this is probably, to me, the most significant issue in using brewers grains, especially the wet stuff, which is usually free because the brew masters are trying to get rid of the stuff. Now this is basically waste to them.

So our ruminant animals, goats included, are nature’s best recyclers because they take just about anything that we cast off in the human production side and can actually make, you know, make food out of it. You think about all the cotton we use and all the cotton seed that is generated from cotton production and that goes into dairy cows for the most part, can be fed to sheep and goats too. And there’s just so many other waste products, byproducts, including distillers grains and brewers grains that we’re talking about today that can be done and fed very easily to the animals or reasonably to the animals.

Deborah Niemann 5:47
So what kind of nutrients are you going to find in brewers grains?

Robert VanSaun 5:52
So brewers grains are not going to be high in sugars and starches because again, that’s fermented for the most part. Brewers grains, your typical grains. Now, again, they’re going to change a little bit depending on what grains are being used. You know, certain barley’s or whatever. And they usually run about 23 to 25% crude protein on a dry matter basis. And they run a nice 40 to 44% neutral detergent fiber. So they’re a really nice fermentable fiber source.

The protein that they have about half of the protein, somewhere between 40 and 50% of the protein is what we consider bypass protein. So the one thing you want to be cautious about with feeding brewers is you don’t want to feed too much because you could potentially, if that’s your primary protein source in the diet, you could starve the rumen bugs from having available nitrogen to support their functions. And so you could compromise fiber digestibility.

Robert VanSaun 7:11
So to me, brewers grains play a good role in the performing animals, like the late pregnant animal and the early lactation animal or the high producing animal of providing some additional protein, but some more protein that can go directly to the animal rather than the rumen bugs. And it provides fiber for fermentation that’s rapidly fermented. It doesn’t contribute to the acid load. So you don’t get the acidosis and it’s generally a palatable product.

Now you asked the question, I didn’t quite answer it. This stuff will mold. If it sits around in an oxygen environment, it will mold. And so you really want to watch for molding and heating. So I would have a compost thermometer and I would stick a thermometer in the pile or, you know, however you’re storing it. Unless you’re getting it on an everyday or every other day basis. And if it starts to get above a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, then I would probably not be feeding that because you’re probably going to get heat damage to the protein. So more of the protein will become indigestible and unavailable in the rumen. Plus you run the specter of, you know, mold mycotoxins that could upset the digestive tract.

Deborah Niemann 8:35
Oh, that is a really good point there. I know storing it, initially, it really scared me. In the very beginning it was easy because we’re in Illinois, and I heard about this in the middle of winter, and we were bringing it home in five gallon buckets, and leaving it in the barn so it was freezing. So to use it, we had to like take it inside to thaw.

Robert VanSaun 8:56
Right. That’s actually not a bad way, but it’s not a very practical way if you got a bunch of animals.

Deborah Niemann 9:02
Yeah, exactly. And then once summer came that no longer was possible and we just really kept a close eye on it. Now, when we had so many pigs, we were picking it up weekly. So it didn’t sit around for too long before we fed it.

Robert VanSaun 9:17
Yeah, I had a dairy farm in Oregon that was getting large loads of it and they got it one hot summer and it really got moldy, it really heated up. And we lost about five pounds of milk production in those cows just because of that. And once we corrected for the missing protein or the heat damage protein, we were able to get milk production back up. But certainly in hot weather, it doesn’t store very well.

Deborah Niemann 9:50
Okay. So when you say that it’s like 24-25% protein on a dry matter basis, how does that number compare to what we normally see on a bag of goat feed that says 16% protein?

Robert VanSaun 10:02
Okay. So on that scenario in a typical goat feed, a commercial goat feed, those products, the guaranteed analysis, which is the label that you’re reading, that is on an as fed basis. All right. So the protein is on an as fed basis. Most of those products are somewhere between 88% and 90% dry matter for the most part, unless you got a fair amount of molasses in it, it’s a real sweet feed or something. So if you divided, let’s say 16 by say 0.9, which is 90%, then the protein in that would be about 17.8%. So it would be much higher than your typical commercial goat feeds.

And that’s why I said, you know, for late pregnancy, I think we had this discussion. If we haven’t, we probably should have it in the future. There is some really fascinating work where this was done in sheep, but I think the principle holds in goats. In late pregnancy, we all know what a problem parasites are in our sheep and goats. And one of the challenges we have in parasite management with sheep and goats is what we call the periparturient rise. In other words, from late pregnancy into early lactation, those darn parasites recognize hormonal changes in the animal. And that signals them to start laying eggs again, to increase the egg production so that the newborn animal is going to get infected right away.

Robert VanSaun 11:45
And so this is what we call the periparturient rise. And what we really want to try and do is kind of minimize that so that the newborns aren’t getting infected with parasites right away. This work that was done, it’s a few studies. They manipulated the late pregnancy diet in sheep, and they found when they fed extra protein, especially what they call bypass protein to increase the metabolizable protein. In late pregnancy, not when they increased energy, they actually saw a drop in fecal egg counts in those animals compared to those that didn’t get the extra protein.

And the idea is, is that extra protein is probably helping with immune function. And so especially those does that are running twins and triplets, they are so nutritionally challenged and their immune system gets weakened because they’re putting so much into those fetuses. Those parasites are really starting to increase their egg production, but by feeding extra protein, they were able to really dramatically drop that egg production. So that’s a great place where distillers or brewers grains might come in because you don’t have to add that much to the diet, given the concentration.

Deborah Niemann 13:08
Oh, I’m glad you said that because that- you know, normally the number that you see on just about every bag of goat feed says that you should feed one pound of the feed for every three pounds of milk produced. So how much of the grain?

Robert VanSaun 13:23
Yeah. So in terms of the brewers grains, if you’re using the wet stuff, you know, you’re probably going to end up providing maybe almost a pound, but it’s really only two-tenths of a pound of material. You know, so.

Deborah Niemann 13:40
Okay. So would that be in addition to the goat feed that you’re feeding or replacing part of it?

Robert VanSaun 13:48
Well, it could replace part of what they’re feeding. Yes.

Deborah Niemann 13:53
Okay. Maybe like 20%, 50%?

Robert VanSaun 13:56
No, I wouldn’t go to 50, but 20-30 in that range would be good. Because again, remember, depending on what the product is, if they are using a lot of bypass protein in the product and they may not, you’d have to read the label, but you don’t want to push too much bypass protein or this undegradable protein, because we don’t want to starve the rumen bugs. You know, we want the fiber digesting bugs to have everything they need. And we want to maximize the bugs because they’re the cheapest workforce that we have in the animal. And so we really only need to strategically provide some bypass protein to these higher needs animals. And to me, the late pregnant doe and the early lactation doe, peak milk doe, they’re the ones that really would benefit from it.

Deborah Niemann 14:47
Okay. Could you explain the concept of bypass protein?

Robert VanSaun 14:51
Yeah. So when we feed a ruminant, we’re just like the brew masters who are making the brewers grains. We’re actually not feeding the animal. We’re trying to feed the bacteria and allow the bacteria to ferment because when they ferment, they’re going to grow. And those bacteria then become the primary food source for the animal. Bacteria are somewhere in the range of about 50% crude protein. And it’s a very digestible protein and it’s a very high quality protein.

So this is why all of our ideas about feeding are to try and optimize or maximize microbial growth. Now we know that the fiber digesting bugs, they cannot use protein or even amino acids as their nitrogen source. They need ammonia. So in other words, we need to have some soluble protein and highly degradable protein in the diet. There are proteins that based on their chemical structure and how fast they move through the ruminant environment, they are amenable to being broken down by other bacteria in the ruminant. So there’s bacteria in the ruminant that are what we call proteolytic that break down proteins and free up ammonia for the fiber digesting bugs as well as themselves.

Robert VanSaun 16:18
But when we talk about crude protein, like you mentioned the 16% protein in the goat feed, that really doesn’t tell us much about how to feed the animal. That’s why what we need to do is we need to look at how much of that protein is going to be degraded in the rumen and how much protein is undegraded in the rumen. So let’s say soybean meal. Soybean meal is very degraded in the rumen. So that’s going to provide lots of nitrogen to the rumen bugs. But this is also why we sometimes heat treat soybeans to try and take some of that protein and give it to the animal rather than the bugs.

Because if we over feed the bugs, then that increases the milk urea nitrogen and the blood urea nitrogen and it’s basically a nitrogen waste. And so that becomes an environmental problem for us in many of our urbanized farm areas. You know, we want a better feed. I mean, our approach to ruminant nutrition right now is actually to feed lower crude protein diets. But to do that, we need to make sure that the fractions of protein that are in the diet are targeting, one, feeding the rumen bugs and meeting all their needs. And then two, providing that kind of protein that the rumen bugs can’t use, but could be digested in the stomach of the animal and made available as amino acids to the animal. And that’s what we call the bypass protein.

Deborah Niemann 17:49
Okay. So I can imagine that some people were listening about what we said about the mold being able to grow in the wet brew grain and also the fact that like if it’s wet, it’s probably 80% water and that they might think, ‘Oh well, I’m just going to dry it out.’ But then I’m thinking, you said heat can damage the protein. So would it be a bad idea- Which I mean, I think you’d have to have a huge oven to be able to do this, but-

Robert VanSaun 18:17
Yeah, you want to be very cautious about trying to dry this stuff because one, it’s just challenging because of how wet it is. And two, when you try to dry that moisture off with heat, you’re actually inducing the reaction that’s going to bind the protein and make it unavailable. So you’re going to actually make more bypass protein or even make it to a point where the protein isn’t available even to the animal, right? If you cause enough of what’s called the Maillard reaction, that heat damage protein is actually unavailable to the rumen bugs and the animal. And so this is where we look at things that are really dark brown to black color, like with distillers grains. That’s why we talk about getting golden colored distillers grains versus the darker brown distillers grains, because that is an indication of greater heat damage proteins in there.

Deborah Niemann 19:13
Oh, that is fascinating. Now my brain is like going back to like the different appearance of all of the grains.

Robert VanSaun 19:20
Yeah. Well, it’s just like if you had grass that you put up as silage, and I know a lot of goat people don’t like silage because of the listeria issue, but if you ferment chopped grasses and they don’t ferment properly, they don’t have the proper lactate production, they can go through a heating process and it’ll smell like tobacco. It’ll look real brown and black and that’s really poorly digestible and lost protein.

Deborah Niemann 19:48
Oh, wow. That is really interesting. So are there any other things that people need to be concerned about when feeding a brewer’s grain?

Robert VanSaun 19:57
Yes. Well, I mentioned the copper relative to sheep, but for goats, that shouldn’t be a problem. The other thing we got to worry about is since these are derived from cereal grains, right? When they make them. That means they have very low calcium and they’re very high in phosphorus. So urinary calculi, if you feed too much and you don’t pay attention to the calcium-phosphorus levels in the diet, that could be a problem.

Deborah Niemann 20:25
Oh, wow. So definitely need to be feeding alfalfa to your goats, which we talked about the importance of that anyway for pregnant and milking goats, but especially if you’re feeding brewer’s grain.

Robert VanSaun 20:37
Yeah. Well, brewer’s grains, my concern there is this would be a great product to put into like a growing kid or a wether or something like that if you were feeding them out. But in males, of course, we worry about the urinary calculi and phosphorus is such an important issue. And even if you balance calcium-phosphorus ratio, the phosphorus in brewer’s grains is somewhere around 0.6% of dry matter. So that’s pretty darn high. If you’ve got anything else in the diet, it doesn’t matter if your calcium phosphorus is there. If you’re overfeeding that phosphorus, it’s got to go through the kidneys and then that could set it up for struvite issues.

Deborah Niemann 21:21
Okay. So that is a really important point. I know when we first- the guy I heard talk about feeding this to pigs made it sound like he was feeding almost exclusively brew grain. And I know that that did not even work with pigs. Like they still need some commercial pig feed in addition to that. So definitely that is something for people to keep in mind. If they’re finishing wethers, can’t just think you’re going to feed this. You still need to- it can just be a supplement to whatever else you’re feeding.

Robert VanSaun 21:53
Right. Exactly. And generally, I mean, the brewer’s grains for the most part are fairly palatable to the animals. They seem to like the taste and everything. So I don’t know if that means goats like to drink beer or something, but I haven’t seen, other than the moldy stuff, I haven’t really seen any animals turn their noses up to it.

Deborah Niemann 22:15
I know, even our dogs like it. Like, is it okay if the dogs were like- if it’s out for the chickens or whatever?

Robert VanSaun 22:22
Yeah, it’s not going to hurt them.

Deborah Niemann 22:25
Okay. They’ve been sneaking some for a long time and they seem okay. It just seems really strange to me. It’s like, you guys are supposed to be carnivores, but they really like the brew grain. So let’s go ahead and move on to distillers grain. Again, let’s start with just a description, a definition of distillers grains. So what exactly is distillers grain?

Robert VanSaun 22:45
Okay. So distillers grains is very similar to brewer’s grains that we just talked about, except for now, most distillers grains are corn and bait in content. And it’s used in the distillery process to make whiskies and bourbons and other higher alcohol drinks. And so again, this is a by-product of using the sugars in the cereal grains, either corn or barley, to generate the alcohol.

And then they distill off that alcohol and the remaining material from the grains that were used is the by-product. And then there’s, you know, after the distilling process, there’s some liquids that get added back. So you’ll see like distillers with solubles and distillers without, and just like brewers grains, they could be dry, which is typically how most are, or you can get wet distillers directly from the distilleries.

Robert VanSaun 23:48
Now that’s the traditional kind of distillers. There is also now with the ethanol production that we’ve had in the United States. There’s an ethanol distillers where they use corn to generate ethanol. And the leftover material is again called distillers, but coming through the ethanol plant, it’s a little bit different because there’s one of two things that happens. They either don’t take the fat out so that some of the distillers can be quite high in fats, which can have a negative effect on the rumen.

And the other thing that we can see is these distillers can have a fairly high sulfur content because they flush the systems with sulfuric acid and then that gets incorporated into, you know, the final mass materials that’s left over. And so distillers grains are used quite a bit in the beef cattle industry. And the challenge we had there was that sulfur could get too high. We could actually get into a sulfur intoxication in these animals.

But similar to the brewers grains, they’re going to run somewheres in the range of about 25% crude protein. You’re going to run about 40-44% neutral detergent fiber, a highly digestible fiber source, and very low in starch and sugars. So they’re not going to cause acidosis or anything. And they basically are about 40%-45% bypass or, you know, undegraded protein as part of their protein source.

Deborah Niemann 25:28
Okay. That is great. I’m so glad you mentioned the high sulfur in there. I was not even aware of the potential for sulfur poisoning, but I know the thing that has always scared me off about distillers grain is the fact that our goats and even our sheep had problems with copper deficiency because of the high sulfur in our well water. And I remember you, I think you might have been the person I heard talk about sulfur in distillers grain at a conference like 10 years ago. So I was just kind of like, ‘Well, we’ll mark that off our list as a potential feed source.’

Robert VanSaun 26:00
Well, the companies, the ethanol plants that make the distillers, they’re well aware of it right now. And so a lot of them have corrected their, you know, and not included the sulfuric acid flushes and include that into their end distiller product to sell. So it’s not as big of an issue and they’re also addressing the fat issue. So things have improved on that front. The other challenge we have with the distillers is the corn that goes into distillers- and it’s exclusively corn in the ethanol plants. If that corn has molds on it or mycotoxins, so it’s not feed worthy, the distillers will still use it.

However, what happens is the mycotoxins can get concentrated into distillers grains. And so there was a big concern for a period of time of high mycotoxin levels in distillers grains. I’ve not seen much problems with that in the last couple years, so I’m not sure if that was just a unique year that we had where that was a problem. And the only other thing is the phosphorus level in distillers is actually even higher than it is in brewers grains. It’s up around 0.75 or so. So again, you’re probably going to be restricted on phosphorus use with distillers before anything else.

Deborah Niemann 27:31
Okay. So I’ve never used distillers grain or I don’t know how it works in terms of when you get it. Obviously, one of the things that always kind of worried me about the brewer’s grain even was that it doesn’t come with a guaranteed nutritional analysis.

Robert VanSaun 27:43
That’s right. And it could vary some because it depends on the extent of which the fermentation was, what’s left over and then what started it. Was it barley? What amount of hops is in there? What other things have they put in there? You know, with all these fancy new artistic brews that are being made, you know, they’re adding all kinds of other compounds in there. It’s probably not going to change the net nutrient values too much, but it’s something to consider.

Deborah Niemann 28:17
So with the distillers grain, it makes me wonder then, like, how would you know if there is a high sulfur content in the grain or mycotoxins? Are the distillers- Do they do any kind of labeling or testing before they give it away or sell it?

Robert VanSaun 28:34
Generally not. Although there are some companies that do test and sell. So in other words, they buy it wholesale and then they’ll turn around and sell it. There’s really an extremely large database at many of our commercial feed laboratories on distillers grains because it is an extremely popular feed because of the low cost compared to other products and the favorable nutrient content from a fiber, low starch, higher protein type supplement. So you can easily have distillers grains tested at a feed lab and measure the sulfur, measure copper and things like that. You would get your protein value.

So just like you would do a forage test, you could do the same kind of testing on the distillers grains. The thing that they wouldn’t do in a routine basis is the mycotoxin. So you’d have to- Most labs now have some screening tests, what we call ELISA tests for many of the important mycotoxins. So if you were concerned, that certainly would be something to do. And once you get a good source of distillers, then you’re probably pretty good in terms of the one analysis is going to be pretty close.

Deborah Niemann 29:58
So it sounds like the ethanol plants are probably a good source for somebody like with a big beef feedlot where they’re going to be getting it by the truckloads and it would be worth their time to get it tested to make sure it’s safe and all that kind of stuff.

So for the small goat producers that are listening to this podcast, they would probably be more likely to find distillers grain if they have like a local whiskey distillery or something like that. And so with those, if you’re talking to the person who’s making the whiskey or whatever, you should be able to then just ask them like, are you using a sulfuric wash?

Robert VanSaun 30:35
Right. You should be able to. Well, those people are probably not doing that. See, that’s the ethanol plants for sure are doing that, but your typical distilleries wouldn’t be doing that. The sulfuric acid is a cleaning process of the pipes and other things. And that’s not what you would find in your typical distilleries.

Deborah Niemann 30:58
Okay. So if somebody has a local distillery in their area and they want to get grain from them, what would be the questions that they would want to ask to rule out anything that could be harmful to their goats?

Robert VanSaun 31:11
Well, from a distiller standpoint, I would just want to know if it’s all corn or barley based and if they’re adding anything unique for the product that they’re doing, some kind of flavor or some other thing, but that’s probably not all that important. And the bigger question would be how much do you have and how often can I pick it up?

Deborah Niemann 31:36
Yeah. It’s kind of funny when we started with the brewer like 10 years ago, it was a tiny little brewer and we were picking- we were getting almost all of his spent grain, you know, and then over the last 10 years, they have grown so much bigger and now they have lots of farmers picking up grain from them and they’re canning their beer. And so we’ve seen it change from, you know, picking it up in multiple five gallon buckets to picking it up in the big plastic totes.

Robert VanSaun 32:03
Well, and again, you could, if owners were interested, almost any feed mill is going to have distillers on hand because it’s such a common feed resource. And so you could potentially buy dried distillers grains or even dried brews grains. It’ll be a little bit more expensive than free, right? But if you wanted to get small batches of it, they could probably bag it up and everything else. And then you have a product that you could use the top dress.

Deborah Niemann 32:35
All right. Is there anything else that people need to know about either the brewer’s grain or the distiller’s grain before they go out and start calling brewers and distilleries?

Robert VanSaun 32:45
Well, again, you ought to have a plan and not just throw some on top. You know, you want to kind of figure out what you’re going to benefit from because you don’t want to overfeed the protein. You don’t want to underfeed. You don’t want to alter the rumen microbes too much, but especially in higher producing animals, the fact that the fiber is so digestible and we got that extra protein, it certainly would be a good resource in those higher producing animals.

And, you know, feeding a half a pound or something like that probably is going to be a nice addition to a grass-based program with a lot of pellet or commercial feed. The downside is it’s very fine material. And so it’s best kind of mixed in with other things. But you know, again, I don’t know with goats, because they usually sort against finer material. So if you can get it to stick to the other material a little bit better, which is why the wet stuff sometimes is a little easier to use because you can put it on top of forage and it’ll stick to that forage. But if it’s dry, if you’re feeding pellets, it could kind of fall through the pellets and things.

Robert VanSaun 34:08
The other thing is you want to make sure before you start feeding this on top of something, read the ingredient label on your feed stuffs and they may actually have distillers grains in there. And so if they do remember that the phosphorus content on the label is a minimum value. And so their product won’t go below that, but their product could be much above that. And so if they’re increasing the incorporation of distillers because of price along with wheat midds and things like that, that phosphorus level in that product might be a lot higher than what the label says. And I’ve seen that situation.

I had a sheep flock here in Pennsylvania that had a lot of problems, I think two years ago with blocked wethers. And when we analyzed the grain product that was put together for them, it had like 0.8% phosphorus in it. Even though it still had a two to one calcium-phosphorus ratio, it’s just too much phosphorus for these guys. And they were having all kinds of urinary calculi problems. And once we got that phosphorus dropped down, which required us to pull some of these higher phosphorus products like distillers and wheat midds out, we got it corrected.

Deborah Niemann 35:30
Okay. I’m glad you mentioned wheat middlings because I’ve seen that on labels before.

Robert VanSaun 35:35
Yep. Yep. Very good fermentable fiber source. You know, it’s not a lot of starch in there. It’s got a decent protein value. So again, these are all just byproducts of human food production that would normally go into landfills and things like that. And our ruminant animals are very, very capable of consuming them, but we just got to make sure that the nutrient content of the diet is appropriate.

Deborah Niemann 36:01
Yeah. I know that Brewer was so excited when I called him. I was the first farmer that had ever called him because they were a new brewery. And he was so excited to find out that we wanted to basically- ‘We’ll take your garbage off you hands.’ So it, you know, really reduced his garbage bill.

Robert VanSaun 36:18
Right. Right.

Deborah Niemann 36:19
Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I know- I’m sure this is going to be so helpful for people and give them a better idea of what they need to look at and what they need to consider when they’ve got this potential free food source available.

Robert VanSaun 36:31
Right. Right. Well, you’re welcome.

Deborah Niemann
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

Brewers Grain for Goats pin

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